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Johnson v. Golden Empire Transit District

United States District Court, E.D. California

June 28, 2016



          Jennifer L. Thurston UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Defendants Golden Empire Transit and Toddash Kim seek leave to file their second amended answer with additional affirmative defenses. (Doc. 39) Plaintiff LaToya Johnson opposes the motion. (Doc. 39) Because the Court finds the leave to amend is appropriate under Rule 15 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, Defendants’ motion to amend is GRANTED.

         I. Background

         In 2012, Plaintiff was hired by Golden Empire Transit District as a driver. (Doc. at 1-2, ¶¶ 4, 8) She was supervised by defendant Toddash Kim, the operations supervisor with GET. (Id. at 2, ¶ 5) In December 2013, Plaintiff requested a leave of absence after suffering a knee injury that limited her ability to walk, kneel, or squat. (Id., ¶ 9) Plaintiff visited a physician on December 26, 2013, “who indicated Plaintiff needed to take time off work.” (Id.) In January 2014, the physician “indicated that she needed to take additional time off work due to her knee injury, ” and Plaintiff “faxed a note from her physician to GET.” (Id. at 2, ¶ 10) In addition, Plaintiff “placed a phone call to GET to take additional leave time.” (Id. at 3, ¶ 10) Plaintiff reports she “visited the GET offices on or about January 9, 2014 to discuss modified duty and her injuries.” (Id.) However, at that time Plaintiff was advised that “she was suspended form her position as a driver.” (Id.)

         GET terminated Plaintiff’s employment on February 6, 2014. (Doc. 1 at 3, ¶ 11) Plaintiff alleges GET “claim[ed] that she had violated rules on the day of the injury by allegedly leaving her bus unattended.” (Id.) According to Plaintiff, she and other drivers “had engaged in similar conduct prior to [December 26, 2013] without discipline.” (Id.) Plaintiff filed a claim with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing and received a right to sue letter. (Id., ¶ 12)

         Plaintiff initiated this action by filing a complaint against GET and her supervisor on November 20, 2014. (Doc. 1) She contends Defendants are liable for a violation of the Family and Medical Leave Act, 29 U.S.C. § 2615. (Id. at 3) In addition, Plaintiff asserts GET is liable for (1) discrimination in violation of the California Family Rights Act, Cal. Gov’t Code § 12945.2; (2) discrimination based upon disability and failure to accommodate in violation of California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act, Cal. Gov’t Code § 12926; and (3) failure to take reasonable steps to prevent discrimination. (Id. at 4-6)

         GET filed its answer to the allegations on January 14, 2015, including thirty-six affirmative defenses. (Doc. 7) Plaintiff filed a motion to strike the affirmative defenses, which was granted in part by the Court on April 7, 015. (Doc. 18) The Court found GET “failed to set forth any factual basis in support of its failure to mitigate damages affirmative defense.” (Id. at 6) Accordingly, the defense was stricken “without prejudice to defendant filing a motion to amend its answer to re-assert this defense with appropriate factual allegations.” (Id., emphasis omitted) However, the Court denied the motion to strike “[t]he affirmative defenses that Defendant’s conduct was ‘justified’ and based upon ‘legitimate, nondiscriminatory reasons.’” (Id. at 7) GET filed its Amended Answer to the complaint on April 10, 2015. (Doc. 20) The same day, defendant Toddash Kim filed his Answer. (Doc. 19)

         On April 29, 2015, the Court held a scheduling conference with the parties and set forth the deadlines governing the action. (Doc. 22) Specifically, “[a]ny requested pleading amendments are ordered to be filed, either through a stipulation or motion to amend, no later than October 14, 2015, ” and any non-dispositive motions were to be filed no later than April 29, 2016. (Id. at 1-2, emphasis omitted) However, the Court granted the parties’ stipulation to extend the deadline for filing a motion to amend the pleadings and file any non-dispositive motions to May 16, 2016. (Doc. 34at 4)

         On May 16, 2016, Defendants filed the motion now pending before the Court, seeking to leave to file a second amended answer. (Doc. 39) Plaintiff filed her opposition to the motion on May 31, 2016 (Doc. 40), to which Defendants filed a reply on June 7, 2016 (Doc. 41) The Court found the matter suitable for decision without oral arguments, and took the matter under submission pursuant to Local Rule 230(g).

         II. Legal Standards[1]

         Under Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a), a party may amend a pleading once as a matter of course within 21 days of service, or if the pleading is one to which a response is required, 21 days after service of a motion under Rule 12(b), (e), or (f). “In all other cases, a party may amend its pleading only with the opposing party’s written consent or the court’s leave.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)(2). Because Plaintiff does not consent to the filing of the Second Amended Answer, Defendants seek the leave of the Court.

         Granting or denying leave to amend a pleading is in the discretion of the Court, Swanson v. United States Forest Service, 87 F.3d 339, 343 (9th Cir. 1996), though leave should be “freely give[n] when justice so requires.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)(2). “In exercising this discretion, a court must be guided by the underlying purpose of Rule 15 to facilitate decision on the merits, rather than on the pleadings or technicalities.” United States v. Webb, 655 F.2d 977, 979 (9th Cir. 1981). Consequently, the policy to grant leave to amend is applied with extreme liberality. Id.

         There is no abuse of discretion “in denying a motion to amend where the movant presents no new facts but only new theories and provides no satisfactory explanation for his failure to fully develop his contentions originally.” Bonin v. Calderon, 59 F.3d 815, 845 (9th Cir. 1995); see also Allen v. City of Beverly Hills, 911 F.2d 367, 374 (9th Cir. 1990). Leave to amend should not be granted where “amendment would cause prejudice to the opposing party, is sought in bad faith, is futile, or creates undue delay.” Madeja v. Olympic Packers, 310 F.3d 628, 636 (9th Cir. 2002) (citing Yakama Indian Nation v. Washington Dep’t of Revenue, 176 F.3d 1241, 1246 (9th Cir. 1999)).

         III. ...

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